Pitch Black 2: The Chronicles of Riddick
All the power in the universe cant change destiny
Running Time: 119 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
Vin Diesel first came to notice, as if from nowhere, playing Riddick, a resourceful convict with the ability to see in the dark, in a low-budget sci-fi horror called Pitch Black (2000). From that moment on, it was as though the whole of Hollywood had suddenly converted to Diesel, and box-office successes like The Fast and the Furious and XXX quickly established his outlaw smirk and Brando-like mumbling as highly commercial trademarks. It is now difficult to remember (at least for the male teens who form his principal fanbase) a cinematic universe without him, so rapidly has his rising star become fixed there. In other words, if someone were to write the chronicles of Vin Diesel, they would be a rags-to-riches tale full of incident and ascension – but they would also be very very short.
Diesel’s latest film brings him back full circle to his humble beginnings as Riddick, and is itself the story of a man ascending rapidly from nowhere to challenge the supremacy of the acting élite. When a fanatical cult of fascist mystics known as the Necromongers threaten to destroy the planet of Helion Prime if its populace refuses to convert, Riddick is summoned by his old acquaintance Imam (Keith David, who was also in ‘Pitch Black’) and the elemental envoy Aereon (Judi Dench) to be just the “kind of evil” that might balance the odds against the Necromongers’ ghostly leader the Lord Marshal (Colm Feore). Reluctantly drawn into a battle that he does not regard as his own, Riddick uses his murderous talents and animal cunning to elude one danger after another, whether it is the mercenaries that pursue him, a high-security prison on a volcanic planet, the zombie armies of the Necromongers, or the conspiratorial machinations of the Lord Marshal’s inner circle – but the one thing that Riddick cannot escape is his own manifest destiny.
Writer/director David Twohy has come a long way since his disastrous screenplay for ‘Waterworld’, and in ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ he has elevated his keen-sighted antihero from the claustrophobic Alien-style terror of Pitch Black into an epic space adventure more akin to ‘Star Wars’ – and in fact the criminal Riddick, dogged by bounty hunters and using hardened, selfish cynicism to cloak an essentially gooey centre, is like Han Solo with a shaven head (but thankfully without a wookie).
Space opera is an inherently cheesy genre, and Riddick is not the most articulate of characters to hold this film’s grandiose set-pieces together, but if you have managed to keep in touch with your inner adolescent, then there is plenty to like here (and little to bore). The sets are stunningly designed, mixing futurism and feudalism to striking effect; the Necromongers look more like the Cenobites from ‘Hellraiser’ than the stormtroopers from ‘Star Wars’; the action is, er, fast and furious; the supporting cast is excellent (especially Karl Urban as the Lord Marshal’s would be successor Vaako, Thandie Newton as Vaako’s Lady Macbeth, and Linus Roache as the diffident Necromonger ‘purifier’) – and best of all, the film opens with the normally bald Riddick/Diesel sporting long hair and a beard as though he were an escapee not from the intergalactic police but from ZZ Top’s last tour.
It's Got: A science-fiction hero who, despite saying very little, repeatedly uses the word skittish; the memorable threat "Ill kill you with my teacup" (and the threat is followed through); the return of the two other survivors of Pitch Black (Imam, played again by Keith David, and girl-disguised-as-boy Jack, who has renamed herself Kyra and, like so many of Vin Diesels fans, modelled all her adolescent mannerisms on Riddicks - she is played by Alexa Davelos); a genuinely epic feel, generated by vast sets and a plot involving interplanetary strife, religion and destiny.
It Needs: For Vin Diesel to stop mumbling all his lines.
Space opera, a prison breakout, spectral zealots and an anarchist anti-hero dumb, maybe, but this film has enough in it to make you see the light.